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Head and Neck Cancer

When cancer occurs in and around your head, it starts to feel personal. But for us, all cancer is personal – and we make sure the very latest treatments are available, from cutting-edge technology to medication based on sequencing the human genome. We’ll do everything we can to help you heal.

Head & Neck Cancer At A Glance



Indicators of head or neck cancer vary widely, but the most common symptoms are swelling, a neck mass, or a sore that does not heal. Some experience changes to their voice or difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms may include lumps, bumps, masses, or red or white patches in affected areas; blurred vision; and soreness, numbness, pain, blood, or foul odors in or around the nose, mouth, or throat.

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Steps to Diagnosis

Once your primary care physician has reason to suspect head or neck cancer, you may be referred to a medical oncologist for diagnostic testing. If cancer is found, the next step is to determine the growth stage and develop a thoughtful, multidisciplinary care plan focused on you and your specific needs.


Common Concerns

Especially for Arizonans, prolonged sun exposure can increase the risk of lip or skin cancer around the neck or head. Men are 2-3 times more likely to develop head or neck cancer, and people over 40 are also at a higher risk.



The HPV vaccine can protect against multiple cancer types and is recommended for men and women up to age 26. Ceasing exposure to tobacco and marijuana, and limiting alcohol intake can lower your risk, as well as using sunscreen and lip balm to reduce sun exposure.


We bring all sub-specialties to bear in our fight against head and neck cancers. Our team approach leverages all disciplines to work in harmony to achieve the best curative outcomes for our patients. Many head and neck cancers can be cured, especially in the early stages. Because treatment targets such a critical area, preserving nearby healthy tissue, organs, and nerves is of critical importance. Treatment may include:


Procedures focused on removing the cancerous tumor may include laser technology, excision, or lymph node dissection.


An intravenous and/or oral medication that attacks and kills cancer cells in the body.

Radiation Therapy

High-powered energy beams, such as X-rays, are used to kill cancer cells directly.

Targeted Therapy

Therapy focused on blocking the growth and spread of cancer cells by targeting the specific genes, proteins, or tissue affected by cancer.

Photo Credit: Nick Merrick

Our Approach

Head and neck cancers are unique in that treatment feels very “close to home.” That’s when our unique approach to precision medicine can really do some good – putting your quality of life and comfort at the center of a personalized care plan designed just for you.

Our interdisciplinary team considers the right care plan from multiple perspectives, often consulting with our team of experts to gather up-to-the-moment insight on treatment options.  

Then, your course of treatment will be designed to suit your exact medical needs, using precision medicine to do the most good while remaining minimally invasive. That means we’re focused not just on eradicating the disease, but on preserving your quality of life before, during, and after your treatment.

We are here to help you heal as a whole person.  So wherever your care path leads, you can be sure our entire team will be there with you every step of the way.

“Strong communication with my patients is important to me. I strive to explain their medical condition, discuss their treatment options and answer their questions in plain language. I want no patient to leave to office thinking they were rushed through their visit.”

Chenthilmurugan Rathnasabapathy, MD
Thoracic and Head & Neck Medical Oncology
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Please contact us to for more information about other cancers and conditions we treat including:

  • Oral Cavity
  • Pharynx
  • Oropharynx
  • Tonsils
  • Tongue Base
  • Soft Palate
  • Nasopharynx
  • Hypopharynx
  • Larynx
  • Major and Minor Salivary Glands
  • Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinuses

Continuing Support

Wherever your individual care plan takes you, we’ll work closely with you to understand your preferences, and your needs – and be sure any additional support is ready when you need it, including:

  • Dietary or nutrition advisors, providing special focus and attention for chemo patients
  • Genetic counselors to help you understand your risk factors
  • Social workers dedicated to easing your emotional burdens and helping with community benefits
  • Financial counselors to help you understand the financial aspect and work with you to reduce the burden when possible
  • Specialty pharmacy liaisons who help authorize your prescriptions and educate you on managing side effects and taking your medicine properly
  • Nurse navigators to help guide you throughout the cancer institute, every step of the way
  • Physical and rehabilitation therapists who provide integrated care alongside your primary care plan